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Food carts as far as the eye can see

Whether or not food trucks are your jam, there are many buzzwords that are being attached to the mobile kitchens that have heads turning and people of all particularities lining up. Sustainable, ocean-wise, farm-to-table, fresh and local are thrown around in various forms to almost every vehicle as they sit in a circle between the Cambie Street Bridge and the Olympic Village ready to serve up their claim-to-fame street food. Sundays may traditionally be known as a time to kick back and relax before the weekend is over, but do yourself a favour and fill up before you lie down on the couch.

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By Ali Siemens (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: July 3, 2013

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as the traditional type, I generally like to spend my Sundays relaxing. A low-key day with nothing too crazy before Monday rolls around again and requires me to get back into that blasted Monday-to-Friday routine.

However, that notion and tradition changed when the food trucks of Vancouver decided to all roll up at the same place, serving a plethora of street food.

Whether  or not food trucks are your jam, there are many buzzwords that are being attached to the mobile kitchens that have heads turning and people of all particularities lining up.

Sustainable, ocean-wise, farm-to-table, fresh and local are thrown around in various forms to almost every vehicle as they sit in a circle between the Cambie Street Bridge and the Olympic Village ready to serve up their claim-to-fame street food. Sundays may traditionally be known as a time to kick back and relax before the weekend is over, but do yourself a favour and fill up before you lie down on the couch.

The Food Cart Fest is busy; at least, it was on the first day of the season. In 2012, the Food Cart Fest was held at The Waldorf and was such a success it was announced it would change locations annually. No matter the where,  it continues to do what it does best – serve up food to the hungry. A Canadian toonie (or alternatively two U.S.  dollar bills) will grant you access to a festival that focuses solely on the celebration of food truck recipes and creations.

Having never gone to the Food Cart Fest, walking in was a bit like my first time at Disneyland: sensory overload. To the right a bunch of folks were selling their vintage clothes, trinkets and treasures which were a great addition to everything else going on. Alternatively, if you have children who are not interested in looking through the crate of records for sale, there is a bouncy castle as well as face-painting. (Why this is limited to just children, I don’t know).

Moving cyclically, salivating humans assumed the lineup position at their leisure once deciding which food truck they wanted to order from.

Deciding was the hardest part. It was like going to ABC Country Restaurant in Abbotsford and being slapped with their 15-page menu, but there were fewer Mennonites. With my hombre, we eventually decided we were going for the “sharesies” move – separating and finding each other later to share our treats.

Although the line-up for Feastro the Rolling Bistro was killer long, things moved quickly. I was in-and-out of that string of 50 humans in a solid 15 minutes.

Highest praise goes directly to the first thing I ordered: a tuna taco. As listed on their website, this bad boy came with grilled local Albacore tuna, tomato and star of anise chutney, shaved cabbage, miso aioli, wakame, pickled ginger, tobiko and bonito flakes. This thing was off the taco-hook. I was totally blown away and continuously made those annoying “mmm” and “yumm” noises the entire time it was in and around my mouth.

Without any regrets, a dungeness crab and shrimp cake was also ordered and as food critics say, “The marriage of flavours was delectable.” Feastro claims this is their fan favourite and I can see why. Huge and full of fresh seafood, it was topped with a delicious coleslaw and cocktail sauce that had the dogs parked beside me on their best behaviour. The West Coast has nothing to be ashamed of, and these guys at Feastro are working with the best ingredients from our ocean.

My food cart companion ordered from The Kaboom Box and we were both impressed with their chef’s creation. A po’boy sandwich made with fried oysters and poutine drenched in mushroom gravy and real cheese curds. The po’boy had the crunch everyone is seeking when wading in the fried oyster territory. There is almost nothing worse than getting a piece of deep-fried seafood (calamari, shrimp, fish and chips) that tastes and feels rubbery and salty. Kaboom Box had it figured out, and also added appreciated toppings that included a delicious coleslaw and tartar sauce-like taste. They knocked it out of the park.

Having sat and mowed down on those menu items we figured it wouldn’t be a true celebratory food truck experience without stuffing ourselves to the point where we felt sick. In line at Taser Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, our options were limited because they were sold out of almost everything. Taser had some grilled cheese sandwiches on steroids. With many kinds of cheeses, bacon, grilled onion, apples, arugula and truffle oil being some of the mouth watering ingredients, we only had one option: the original grilled cheese available on white bread and orange cheddar cheese.

Grilled perfectly with the perfect amount of butter to make the bread take on some of the flavour, we each took half and cheered to the successes of our ordering. Stringy cheese hung off my eyebrow (seriously – I don’t know how that happened) and we devoured it all.

The atmosphere was not only derived from the satisfying looks on people’s faces as they ate. The live DJ who played from the center of the circle kept patrons from the oncoming nap symptoms that  can follow a good meal. The DJ or live music changes weekly, but from the beat I witnessed, he (or she) is meant to ensure everyone is having a good time. Next to the live music, the kid station was packed and looked totally fun (according to my inner child).

Parents are able to get food and sit at the tables set up next to where the child distraction tools are located. No need for a babysitter if you are looking to take children along, as there is enough entertainment to keep everyone happy.

Like every event, the coordinators seem to be on top of what the crowd is calling for. According to Facebook updates, more food trucks are booked for the following Sundays, and they have also implemented a bike valet service – if biking is your mode of transportation, they will keep your bicycle safe while you eat.

Apparently parking is a little tough in that area, so another recommendation might be to park further away and enjoy the walk next to the water on your way home. As far as fun goes, this is an inexpensive and fun way to let the inner foodie in you enjoy Vancouver’s finest food trucks. Come vegetarian, carnivore, celiac, vegan and everyone in between, you will find something yummy and have fun doing it.

Being a foodie is kind of in right now, and that can often be intimidating when there are some people who just like food and don’t want to explain the gastronomy behind what is on the plate in front of you. I like food, and I also like food coming out of a truck window in a recyclable container. Get a group of friends and make a game plan, because even though the food we tried was delicious, my full stomach still craved the many other smells wafting around Cambie Street.

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